As Jamaicans in South Florida prepare to celebrate Jamaica’s 52nd anniversary of Independence from the British, some may not even be aware of the significance and potential of this community throughout the entire state of Florida. Since the 1970s, Jamaicans have been migrating to Florida in large numbers, and today the Jamaican American population, including those born in the USA to Jamaican parents, approximates 500,000 with the majority of approximately 350,000 residing in the South Florida region.
However, despite the growth and achievements of this Jamaica community, there is not much empirical evidence of these achievements.
In 2012, as the Jamaican community prepared to celebrate Jamaica’s 50th Independence, it became glaringly obvious that there were scant documented accounts of the achievements of the Jamaican-American community in the region because of the lack of repository of information. Since the 1970s, Jamaicans in Florida have made tremendous strides in a variety of fields including culture, business, medicine, law, politics, sports, and the media. This has been accounted for merely by lip service. In fact, the region is one of the strongest Jamaican Diaspora communities in North America, rivaled by only that of New York, Toronto, and in London, United Kingdom.
As events were being planned to commemorate the nation’s 50th anniversary of Independence, it became apparent to the Jamaican Consulate General in Miami and its working committee, that outstanding Jamaican community pioneers and achievers in the 1960s, 70s and 80s could not go unrecognized. This glaring absence of a structured repository base documenting Jamaica’s history and that of the Jamaican Florida community, in particular, presented a call for action to the community to fill this breach.
It was then conceptualized that a Jamaican Cultural and Resource Center (JCRC) as the focal resource point of information on Jamaica and her Diaspora be created as a non-profit entity, legally targeting grants and other funding. Since then, this original concept was expanded to develop the JCRC as a physical multifunctional center, to also serve as the repository and coordinating center for Jamaican cultural exposition and activities in South Florida.
This center is envisaged to be located at a suitable site in South Florida, more likely within a city with a large Jamaican population, for example, in Broward County namely Lauderhill, Lauderdale Lakes, Pembroke Pines or Miramar.
In 2012, an informal fund was established to begin raising required funds to enhance this project. The following year, this fund was formerly incorporated as the Jamaican Diaspora Legacy Foundation of Florida. A Foundation steering committee was formed led by South Florida Jamaican Community leader, Garth A. Rose, as President.
Since 2012, the Consul General has been working in collaboration with a steering committee which includes an advisory architect/engineer team who has been involved in designing the prototype for the envisaged 12,000 SF building. Earlier this year the committee was replaced by a board of directors, in accordance with the by-laws of the Foundation. The board has been involved in researching potential sites for locating the site, planning related promotional strategies for effective fundraising, developing a marketing and business plan, and studying a formal organizational structure for the Fund.
The structure is estimated to cost $5 to $6 million, and the plans are for it to include the following:
- A reference library and resource center where the Jamaican Diaspora – particularly second and third generations would be able to learn of their heritage especially as it relates to the growth of Jamaican communities in South Florida and other regions in the USA.
- A cultural performance auditorium for showcasing Jamaican cultural presentations and performing artists.
- An exhibition hall to showcase our art, including photography and craft.
- A meeting/banquet room for community forums and social functions.
- A business corridor with vendor space to be leased to Jamaican small businesses to operate and market their goods and services.
- Administrative offices to manage the facility and also serve as a resource center for assimilation of new Jamaican migrants.
- Parking facility.
The Jamaica Resource and Cultural Center, when fully functional, would be the focal point accessible to the entire South Florida Jamaican community. More importantly, the center would also erase the problem of affordability for a suitable venue frequently encountered by several Jamaican associations hosting frequent social affairs and community forums.
It is also envisaged that this venue would be a source of revenue from formal leasing and rental arrangements to offset the recurring operational expenses. The strongest source of revenue would be from successive grants secured from private and public sector foundations. Consequently, the research, application and procurement of grant funding would be one of the key functions of the center’s administrative staff.
Formal Launch and Public Awareness
A formal launch of the Jamaican Diaspora Legacy Foundation of Florida Incorporated, and the related sustained funding drive is being organized by the Foundation’s board for a date to be announced. Subsequent to this launch a series of public and private fund raisers will be held to generate community interest and source investment for the commencement of this monumental task of Jamaican Diaspora pride – the Jamaica Resource and Cultural Center, of course, for the benefit of every Jamaican residing in Florida.